Two construction companies in Illinois are facing fines of almost $2 million after Occupational Safety and Healthy Administration inspectors discovered that they instructed workers to take out asbestos and other contaminated materials from an Okawville, Illinois, school without proper equipment or training.
According to an OSHA news release earlier this month, the two companies “failed to warn employees…of the danger [and] also failed to ensure that workers used appropriate work methods and respirators, and…train them about the hazards of working around asbestos.”
Many workers who were exposed entered the U.S. under an H-2B visa system to work for the companies that had permission to hire temporary foreign workers. Some allegedly were threatened by management with termination for talking to OSHA inspectors.
In Centralia, Illinois, Schiller Elementary School had to close only days prior to classes starting back up when workers found mold growing on insulation that contained asbestos. Classes were moved to a local so the 200 students can attend classes while the cleanup takes place.
Asbestos is a mineral that is found in natural settings and was mined extensively in the western states in past decades. It was used in the production of toys and in the manufacture of public buildings, houses and schools.
Later, it was discovered that even a slight asbestos exposure may be responsible for the 15,000 deaths in America each year from cancers and other asbestos-related diseases.
Two legislators are the co-sponsors of the Reducing Exposure to Asbestos Database Act currently before Congress. The bill calls for companies using asbestos to be required to disclose regularly which products are made with the toxic substance and their location. That information would then be supplied to the Environmental Protection Agency and posted online for consumers to access.
If you suspect that a health condition is related to a work-related asbestos exposure, you have the option to pursue a civil claim for damages.
Source: The Huffington Post, “New Asbestos Threats Affect Vets, Workers, Children and Drinking Water,” Alex Formuzis, Aug. 18, 2015